F1 2010 season preview: Sauber

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The exciting Kobayashi starts his first full season at Sauber
The exciting Kobayashi starts his first full season at Sauber

This team endured a torrid season as BMW in 2009. Until a late update to their car brought them within touching distance of the leaders in the final races.

Now back under the control of Peter Sauber, will they revert to their midfield role of the pre-BMW days, or get back on the upward curve which put Robert Kubica in contention for the title two years ago?

Car design

The Sauber C29 owes much to its predecessor, the F1.09. It also draws heavily on several popular design trends: high nose, shark fin and cutaway engine air intake.

After successive years of progress the team went down a blind alley with its 2009 development, wasting a lot of time on KERS. But by the end of the season the F1.09 had been licked into shape and Robert Kubica drove it to second place at Interlagos.

BMW had already canned its F1 project by then but the early performance of the C29 suggests that might have been a poor decision. In testing the car appeared to have good baseline speed, no major reliability concerns and is kind to its tyres.

The team has excellent resources at its Hinwil base but the almost total lack of sponsorship on the C29 does make you wonder if they can afford to use them to the full in the year ahead. They may not quite be the Brawn of 2009, but look for Sauber towards the front of the midfield where they stand a chance of grabbing the points that get the sponsors.

Driver line-up

With Kubica off to Renault and Heidfeld not being retained, Sauber have a brand new driver pairing in 2010.

Pedro de la Rosa hasn’t raced since 2006 but his development abilities are first-rate – McLaren are disappointed to have lost him. With track testing very limited and more work being done on simulators, de la Rosa’s experience will be a boon for the team.

In Kamui Kobayashi Peter Sauber has made another of his characteristic gambles on a promising young talent. Kobayashi’s GP2 performances didn’t mark him out as a star of the future (although he did win the GP2 Asia title) but the ease with which he took to F1 with Toyota last year hinted at his potential.

His drives in Interlagos and Yas Island mixed desperation and inspiration but Sauber has proved a good environment for slightly wild young drivers to mature into race winners – like Felipe Massa.


The car looks strong and the team have an excellent technical base. Although technical director Willy Rampf is moving aside he’s handing over to James Key, who did great things with Force India’s aerodynamics last year.


An unproven driver line-up with one race-rusty driver and one rookie. How much development work can they get done on their budget?

Poll: championship position

In the past three seasons they’ve finished second, third and sixth. Where will the team finish as Sauber in 2010?

Where will Sauber finish in the 2010 Constructors' Championship?

  • 1st (1%)
  • 2nd (1%)
  • 3rd (3%)
  • 4th (7%)
  • 5th (27%)
  • 6th (32%)
  • 7th (17%)
  • 8th (8%)
  • 9th (2%)
  • 10th (1%)
  • 11th (1%)
  • 12th (0%)
  • 13th (0%)

Total Voters: 858

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See all the articles in the F1 Fanatic 2010 Season Preview

2010 F1 season

Images (C) BMW Sauber F1 Team

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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40 comments on “F1 2010 season preview: Sauber”

  1. Could be a brilliant year for Sauber considering the crap they went through last season with BMW.

    I read on Autosport yesterday that the C29 cares for its tyres the best of any team. That paired with a strong Ferrari engine and we could talking about a team with potential for podiuns here.

    Fingers crossed. Always liked Sauber and everyone loves Kamui, so lets hope it all goes well this year for them

  2. I think Sauber will start strongly but will loose out in the development race as the season goes on especially if they don’t find some sponsors, so I think they will finish 8th this season.

    As it stands now the C29 is one of the best cars in the midfield group and recently Bridgestone said it was really good at looking after its tyres which should be a bonus.

    If the team was still BMW and had the driver line-up they had last year, I would probably place them in the top group and tip them for wins. But over the course of the season their lack of funds will probably mean it will be difficult to maintain their current position.

    Some, including myself were surprised at the choice of De La Rosa but his experience should be an asset for the team. After his debut last season Kobayahi seems to have gained quite a few fans especially on this site, and I am glad he has managed to get a drive this season after Toyota’s withdrawal. Now he has to prove he can continue that form over the course of a whole season, as some have pointed out Nakajima also had a bright start to his F1 career.

    1. Absolutely agree, nicely summed up!

  3. The Car has a good appeal, Ferrari engine should be giving them a good reliability. The team looks motivated. Now this is a team which is less spoke of. Though the team has rebuild itself from the scratch.Thanks a lot to Peter Sauber for his efforts to keep the team alive.

  4. Read on autosport that Sauber was the best at looking after its tyres.
    Kobayashi I expect to get a few DNFs and PdlR was always more of a solid driver in my opinion so I don’t expect too much from them but hopefully they will work nicely together.
    I agree that they will probably lose oput on the development race especially if they can’t attract sponsors.

    1. de la Rosa over Heidfeld still seems like an odd choice, I’m guessing he brought some backing with him.

  5. Like many others, I became an instant fan of Kobayashi at Interlagos and Yas Island last year. I have high hopes for him, but I can’t expect too much. PDLR’s experience is going to be valuable to the team and I hope they can give the big boys a run for their money in some races.

    The car looks great and hopefully it will serve them well throughout the year.

  6. Sauber has proved a good environment for slightly wild young drivers to mature into race winners – like Felipe Massa.

    I’d say he learned more from Ferrari – but it’s a great choice for Kobayashi, I’m sure he can learn a lot of technical skills off de la Rosa.

    A good bet for some strong early results, as James says, but 6th for me, as I’m expecting Williams to out-develop and out-score them over the season.

    1. Maybe but they gave Kimi his break in F1 as well

    2. I’d say he learned more from Ferrari

      If so, then definitely a lot from Schumacher. The battle between these two, no longer in the same team and neither being favoured and the other a number two, will be one of the more interesting and least-discussed of the 2010 battles.

      1. Yeah, are they picking up on this anywhere else? In Britain it’s been pretty much ignored.

  7. Currently they are probably right behind the Big Four, but as the season goes they will fall behind more and more, solely due to the lack of funding. I give them 3 GP’s to be outpaced by Renault and Williams. In the end I tip them to win 7th place over Force India. And personally I admire Peter Sauber and his fondness of polishing young raw talents.

  8. With Kubica and Heidfeld (remember him?) I think Sauber would be in great shape for 2010. It seems as though they have a good car and if, as Autosport is predicting, they can use soft tyres in qualifying and the race, they could really fly.

    But I just don’t rate their drivers. Like I said on here the other day I think they have one of the worst driver pairings of the season. De la Rosa is way too slow and as great as Kobayashi was in his two race cameo for Toyota I can’t help but think that F1 standard drivers don’t finish 16th in GP2, not once but twice.

    I suppose they have a decent combination of experience and youth. But I think Williams and Renault have far better experienced drivers than de la Rosa and quicker rookies than Kobayashi. So I think Sauber might struggle

    1. I can’t help but think that F1 standard drivers don’t finish 16th in GP2, not once but twice.

      But then one could equally say, “top GP2 drivers don’t crash and burn (so to speak) their F1 careers”, but Grosjean did. Yes, a lot of that was down to circumstance, but that’s my point. Let’s see what happens with Kobayashi; history is one of the least useful sources of wisdom in sport, especially in F1.

      I’d say Sauber’s issue is more that they have a promising rookie but in a relatively undeveloped car, and a very competent test driver but may have little scope to use his skills in developing the car. For me, it’s more about the money than the drivers.

      1. Speaking of Grosjean, does anyone know what he is doing this year? Where has he gone?

    2. Michael Schumacher’s pre-F1 career wasn’t too dazzling , 5th & 9th place finishes in the World Sportscar Championship, with Sauber I might add, and a 5th place at Le Mans.

  9. any idea why sauber isn’t on the f1.com website under teams?

    1. They are there. So is HRT (with no logo)

  10. sauber has always been the best team for young drivers with many drivers getting their break at the team however
    they should now focus on keeping the talent at sauber and
    reaching the big 4

  11. I know people are saying that Sauber being gentle on it’s tires could help them be able to qualify on the softs in Q3…

    …but in order to do that they have to get to Q3 in the first place. Sadly if the pack is a close as it was last season then I don’t see PDLR or Kamui being able to be regular contenders in Q3, not when you consider that it’s easy to come up 10 drivers who are in cars that should be as fast as the Sauber this year:

    Hamilton, Button, Massa, Alonso, Schumacher, Rosberg, Vettel, Webber, Barricello, Hulkenberg

    That’s before we even talk about Renault or Force India, both of which teams I believe will be as fast, if not faster, than Sauber right from the word go.

    1. Given how we saw last year that teams often went from one end of the points-scoring positions to the other simply depending on what track it was and what the weather was like, and I read somewhere (possibly Force India) that this phenomenon is expected to carry on, if not become more pronounced, I think the idea of even a monolithic Top 8 is premature, let alone a set Top 10. As the season goes on and the development race plays out we might see things go in that direction, but for the first few races I think Sauber have as good a chance as any of the non-Big Four at getting into Q3.

  12. The cars looked up to speed in tests. I thinkt he results of Kamui will be varying due to his uncompromising racing style. Pedro I expect to be a solid finisher. The position of the team will be hanging on the point score by Kamui. Just like last year with Williams. A few points of Nakajima would probably have given then 2 positions in WCC.
    I think Sauber will battle with Williams and the top four teams if they are not spot on.

  13. They will be mixing it with the frontrunners at the beginning of the season, but they will loose in the development race.
    After the first few races they’ll be in the top three, but fifth in the end.

  14. Sauber should be solid in 2010 but rarely spectacular.

    The chassis looks reasonable and the Ferrari engine is also solid enough to get the team points and maybe even the odd podium. De la Rosa is race rusty but that didn’t stop him putting in some good performances for McLaren in 2005 and 2006 – he should be solid contender for points. Kobayashi looked impressive in his first two races but will have to do something extraordinary to justify the hype. On balance, I’d expect de la Rosa to have the edge.

    Sauber’s possible tyre advantage may turn out to be a double edged sword. The car may be gentle enough on the soft tyres to run a long stint on them, but is the flipside that it has problems getting the tyres hot enough for a single lap in qualifying? Might it also struggle with the harder tyres in cold temperatures?

  15. It’s so hard to call what the group behind the big 4 is.

    Williams, Force India, Sauber and possibly Renault could all reasonably be fighting for 5th in the WCC.

  16. there is only 12 teams in F1 this year right?

    only i’m just a little confused why there is a position 13 on the voting form…and even more confused why people keep using it

    i mean…i know vergin arn’t great but even they will struggle to finish 13th out of 12

  17. Prisoner Monkeys
    10th March 2010, 12:16

    I really like the C29. If they got rid of the sharkfin and gave it a proper livery, I think it would be the best-looking car on the grid. It’s got the same aggression that that McLaren MP4-25 has, but it doesn’t feel the need to wrap itself in elegance. It’s got a real industrial vibe about it, and I like it.

  18. I think Sauber will do great this year. BMW weren’t a bad team. They may have screwed up last year, but they were great in the other years so I’m confident they designed a good car this year. It is a shame Heidfeld and Kubica aren’t still onboard, they would take the team to the top 4.

  19. The C29 looks like a fantastic car. I think the revelation about it being very kind to its tyres will give the big 4 something to think about, because the car did seem to have good pace through testing. They should be able to grab a podium or two in the right circumstances.

  20. Sauber biggest problems ITS DRIVERS, always been a fan of Sauber, I quite enjoyed their driver line up last year, however this year, quite disappointing, you cant expect to do well if your drivers are below par.

    1. I’ve never been a fan of Sauber. He always seems to go for the most boring strategy available.

      Not convinced about their line-up either. I feel Pedro de la rosa is a has been who never was and I wonder how Kobayashi will fare. He was horrible at Interlagos, but pretty impressive at Abu Dhabi (although he had a great car to drive too)

  21. CovertGiblets
    10th March 2010, 13:21

    I’ll be interested to see if Bridgestone’s comments regarding the C29’s relative kindness to its tyres translates into problems with overheating when circuit temperatures begin to rise? Assuming its as kind as is thought, the C29 may enjoy some success with the odd very good result. However I feel they will finish behind Force India and Williams in 7th

    1. CovertGiblets
      10th March 2010, 13:23

      Cant wait for the first time a certain German driver meets our new Japanese friend. That should make for some excellent television!

  22. The midfield is such a toss-up. I’d like the team to do well, just because it’s cool that Peter Sauber stayed ‘in the game’ – and I have a soft spot for Kobayash’s bravado and seemingly genuinely nice and chill personality (which is wholly separate from how he might do in the long run). The Ferrari engine can only be a plus, but based on absolutely nothing but gut feeling, I think that their testing pace was a bit of a mirage. Whereas Renault did almost nothing but long runs, from memory, I think Sauber did mostly short runs. The best of luck to them, but I voted 8th, behind Renault.

  23. Hey Keith, another great post,

    Are you planning on doing some sort of summary for the pole results at a later time?

  24. I like Kobayashi’s Will to fight with the so-called big teams to get at least 8Th position and he also mentioned getting podiums with a bit of luck. I love his confidence
    he deserves the great car he’s got

  25. Is their Official name Sauber Motorsport now???

  26. Well I think they will be a midfield team. I regard Williams a little higher because of the experience of Barrichello over De la Rosa and Hulkenberg’s talent over Kobayashi. But Kobayashi is a promising driver, I’m curious to this one. I think they will be 6th.

  27. Peter Sauber is the man who found out talent like Raikkonen & Massa, I won’t be surprise the Kamui is his next weapon.

  28. I’d say they will end 6th after the big four and Force India. I am glad PDLR got a seat after all, he deserved it and I have big expectations about him (reading the post seems like I am the only one)

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